On our right flank commanded by Bagration, at nine o'clock the battle had no_et begun. Not wishing to agree to Dolgorukov's demand to commence the action, and wishing to avert responsibility from himself, Prince Bagration proposed t_olgorukov to send to inquire of the commander in chief. Bagration knew tha_s the distance between the two flanks was more than six miles, even if th_essenger were not killed (which he very likely would be), and found th_ommander in chief (which would be very difficult), he would not be able t_et back before evening.
Bagration cast his large, expressionless, sleepy eyes round his suite, and th_oyish face Rostov, breathless with excitement and hope, was the first t_atch his eye. He sent him.
"And if I should meet His Majesty before I meet the commander in chief, you_xcellency?" said Rostov, with his hand to his cap.
"You can give the message to His Majesty," said Dolgorukov, hurriedl_nterrupting Bagration.
On being relieved from picket duty Rostov had managed to get a few hours'
sleep before morning and felt cheerful, bold, and resolute, with elasticity o_ovement, faith in his good fortune, and generally in that state of mind whic_akes everything seem possible, pleasant, and easy.
All his wishes were being fulfilled that morning: there was to be a genera_ngagement in which he was taking part, more than that, he was orderly to th_ravest general, and still more, he was going with a message to Kutuzov, perhaps even to the sovereign himself. The morning was bright, he had a goo_orse under him, and his heart was full of joy and happiness. On receiving th_rder he gave his horse the rein and galloped along the line. At first he rod_long the line of Bagration's troops, which had not yet advanced into actio_ut were standing motionless; then he came to the region occupied by Uvarov'_avalry and here he noticed a stir and signs of preparation for battle; havin_assed Uvarov's cavalry he clearly heard the sound of cannon and musketr_head of him. The firing grew louder and louder.
In the fresh morning air were now heard, not two or three musket shots a_rregular intervals as before, followed by one or two cannon shots, but a rol_f volleys of musketry from the slopes of the hill before Pratzen, interrupte_y such frequent reports of cannon that sometimes several of them were no_eparated from one another but merged into a general roar.
He could see puffs of musketry smoke that seemed to chase one another down th_illsides, and clouds of cannon smoke rolling, spreading, and mingling wit_ne another. He could also, by the gleam of bayonets visible through th_moke, make out moving masses of infantry and narrow lines of artillery wit_reen caissons.
Rostov stopped his horse for a moment on a hillock to see what was going on, but strain his attention as he would he could not understand or make ou_nything of what was happening: there in the smoke men of some sort wer_oving about, in front and behind moved lines of troops; but why, whither, an_ho they were, it was impossible to make out. These sights and sounds had n_epressing or intimidating effect on him; on the contrary, they stimulated hi_nergy and determination.
"Go on! Go on! Give it them!" he mentally exclaimed at these sounds, and agai_roceeded to gallop along the line, penetrating farther and farther into th_egion where the army was already in action.
"How it will be there I don't know, but all will be well!" thought Rostov.
After passing some Austrian troops he noticed that the next part of the line (the Guards) was already in action.
"So much the better! I shall see it close," he thought.
He was riding almost along the front line. A handful of men came gallopin_oward him. They were our Uhlans who with disordered ranks were returning fro_he attack. Rostov got out of their way, involuntarily noticed that one o_hem was bleeding, and galloped on.
"That is no business of mine," he thought. He had not ridden many hundre_ards after that before he saw to his left, across the whole width of th_ield, an enormous mass of cavalry in brilliant white uniforms, mounted o_lack horses, trotting straight toward him and across his path. Rostov put hi_orse to full gallop to get out of the way of these men, and he would have go_lear had they continued at the same speed, but they kept increasing thei_ace, so that some of the horses were already galloping. Rostov heard the thu_f their hoofs and the jingle of their weapons and saw their horses, thei_igures, and even their faces, more and more distinctly. They were our Hors_uards, advancing to attack the French cavalry that was coming to meet them.
The Horse Guards were galloping, but still holding in their horses. Rosto_ould already see their faces and heard the command: "Charge!" shouted by a_fficer who was urging his thoroughbred to full speed. Rostov, fearing to b_rushed or swept into the attack on the French, galloped along the front a_ard as his horse could go, but still was not in time to avoid them.
The last of the Horse Guards, a huge pockmarked fellow, frowned angrily o_eeing Rostov before him, with whom he would inevitably collide. Thi_uardsman would certainly have bowled Rostov and his Bedouin over (Rostov fel_imself quite tiny and weak compared to these gigantic men and horses) had i_ot occurred to Rostov to flourish his whip before the eyes of the Guardsman'_orse. The heavy black horse, sixteen hands high, shied, throwing back it_ars; but the pockmarked Guardsman drove his huge spurs in violently, and th_orse, flourishing its tail and extending its neck, galloped on yet faster.
Hardly had the Horse Guards passed Rostov before he heard them shout,
"Hurrah!" and looking back saw that their foremost ranks were mixed up wit_ome foreign cavalry with red epaulets, probably French. He could see nothin_ore, for immediately afterwards cannon began firing from somewhere and smok_nveloped everything.
At that moment, as the Horse Guards, having passed him, disappeared in th_moke, Rostov hesitated whether to gallop after them or to go where he wa_ent. This was the brilliant charge of the Horse Guards that amazed the Frenc_hemselves. Rostov was horrified to hear later that of all that mass of hug_nd handsome men, of all those brilliant, rich youths, officers and cadets, who had galloped past him on their thousand-ruble horses, only eighteen wer_eft after the charge.
"Why should I envy them? My chance is not lost, and maybe I shall see th_mperor immediately!" thought Rostov and galloped on.
When he came level with the Foot Guards he noticed that about them and aroun_hem cannon balls were flying, of which he was aware not so much because h_eard their sound as because he saw uneasiness on the soldiers' faces an_nnatural warlike solemnity on those of the officers.
Passing behind one of the lines of a regiment of Foot Guards he heard a voic_alling him by name.
"What?" he answered, not recognizing Boris.
"I say, we've been in the front line! Our regiment attacked!" said Boris wit_he happy smile seen on the faces of young men who have been under fire fo_he first time.
"Have you?" he said. "Well, how did it go?"
"We drove them back!" said Boris with animation, growing talkative. "Can yo_magine it?" and he began describing how the Guards, having taken up thei_osition and seeing troops before them, thought they were Austrians, and al_t once discovered from the cannon balls discharged by those troops that the_ere themselves in the front line and had unexpectedly to go into action.
Rostov without hearing Boris to the end spurred his horse.
"Where are you off to?" asked Boris.
"With a message to His Majesty."
"There he is!" said Boris, thinking Rostov had said "His Highness," an_ointing to the Grand Duke who with his high shoulders and frowning brow_tood a hundred paces away from them in his helmet and Horse Guards' jacket, shouting something to a pale, white uniformed Austrian officer.
"But that's the Grand Duke, and I want the commander in chief or the Emperor,"
said Rostov, and was about to spur his horse.
"Count! Count!" shouted Berg who ran up from the other side as eager as Boris.
"Count! I am wounded in my right hand" (and he showed his bleeding hand with _andkerchief tied round it) "and I remained at the front. I held my sword i_y left hand, Count. All our family—the von Bergs—have been knights!"
He said something more, but Rostov did not wait to hear it and rode away.
Having passed the Guards and traversed an empty space, Rostov, to avoid agai_etting in front of the first line as he had done when the Horse Guard_harged, followed the line of reserves, going far round the place where th_ottest musket fire and cannonade were heard. Suddenly he heard musket fir_uite close in front of him and behind our troops, where he could never hav_xpected the enemy to be.
"What can it be?" he thought. "The enemy in the rear of our army? Impossible!"
And suddenly he was seized by a panic of fear for himself and for the issue o_he whole battle. "But be that what it may," he reflected, "there is no ridin_ound it now. I must look for the commander in chief here, and if all is los_t is for me to perish with the rest."
The foreboding of evil that had suddenly come over Rostov was more and mor_onfirmed the farther he rode into the region behind the village of Pratzen, which was full of troops of all kinds.
"What does it mean? What is it? Whom are they firing at? Who is firing?"
Rostov kept asking as he came up to Russian and Austrian soldiers running i_onfused crowds across his path.
"The devil knows! They've killed everybody! It's all up now!" he was told i_ussian, German, and Czech by the crowd of fugitives who understood what wa_appening as little as he did.
"Kill the Germans!" shouted one.
"May the devil take them—the traitors!"
"Zum Henker diese Russen!"[](footnotes.xml#footnote_41) muttered a German.
Several wounded men passed along the road, and words of abuse, screams, an_roans mingled in a general hubbub, then the firing died down. Rostov learne_ater that Russian and Austrian soldiers had been firing at one another. "M_od! What does it all mean?" thought he. "And here, where at any moment th_mperor may see them… . But no, these must be only a handful of scoundrels. I_ill soon be over, it can't be that, it can't be! Only to get past the_uicker, quicker!" The idea of defeat and flight could not enter Rostov'_ead. Though he saw French cannon and French troops on the Pratzen Height_ust where he had been ordered to look for the commander in chief, he coul_ot, did not wish to, believe that.